Moses catching eyes

ATHENS — It's plain to everyone on Georgia's football team how good an athlete defensive end Quentin Moses is, even to the guy whose job he's trying to take.

Starting defensive end Will Thompson, a graduate of Northside High School, said he worries every week about whether or not Moses is going to pass him on the depth chart.

"Quentin is an athlete," Thompson said. "You really have to watch out for the athletes."

A reformed basketball player who has added almost 40 pounds since coming to Athens, Moses has finally accepted that football is his future and has made as much progress in the last five games as any player on the team.

"We're always kidding around with him and saying he's the next Julius Peppers," said defensive tackle Kedric Golston, referring to the former North Carolina and current Carolina Panther. "But there's a lot of truth to that."

The No. 12 Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) play Vanderbilt (1-4, 1-2) on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Despite not playing in the first game of the year (due to a shoulder injury he suffered playing pickup basketball) and playing only two-thirds of the amount of time Thompson has played in the last four games, Moses has more sacks (two) and quarterback pressures (six) than Thompson and just one fewer tackle (six).

This was supposed to be Thompson's triumphant return from an ankle injury that kept him out of all of 2003, but he has yet to produce like he did in the final games of 2002. He didn't have a tackle against Tennessee and has only had three in the last three games.

"All together, I'd say the hustle and work is there, but the technique and (covering) assignments isn't there all the time," said Thompson, who added that sometimes he misses assignments because he gets too excited. "I feel like I'm making a lot of young player mistakes, a lot of immature mistakes. I need to work on that."

There is no immediate plan for Moses to take Thompson's job.

"I think we're comfortable right now in the rotation process, but there's no doubt (Moses) has gotten better," defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said.

Defensive ends coach Jon Fabris pointed out that statistics "don't always tell the true tale of the tape," and VanGorder said he hasn't been disappointed in Thompson

"Will adds a certain spirit to our defense," VanGorder said. "He's doing what I expected Will Thompson to do."

Even Moses isn't sure he should start.

"Games can be kind of deceiving," he said. "The coaches put me in situations where I have no choice but to make plays. My practice habits need to be much better."

Those have been slowly improving since the end of last football season, when he finally gave up on basketball. He was an all-state basketball player at Cedar Shoals High School and played for the Bulldogs in 2002, averaging just two minutes in three games and never scoring a point.

"It took me a while to accept that I wasn't going to be a basketball player on this level," Moses said. "I didn't mature as fast as I hoped I would. I think I had to change my attitude to work harder on the field. I care a lot more about it and try to work a lot harder."

The work has come on the field and in the weight room. Moses came to Georgia in 2002 weighing 217 pounds but has added almost 20 pounds every year to get to his current 255.

"I think he's starting to like football more," VanGorder said. "I think he's starting to realize what he's capable of in the game of football. Once Quentin really decided he wanted to be a real good football player, we always felt that progression would happen rather rapidly. We knew he had a lot of raw athletic ability."

Coach Mark Richt can tell Moses' work habits are improving because Moses is causing more problems for the offense in practice.

"He's a guy that seems to get a little more excited about a game than practice, but now he seems to be turning it on in practice a little more. He's really becoming a very difficult guy to block when he turns the jets on," Richt said.

His teammates are noticing, too.

"He's improved so much in terms of knowing what to do," Golston said. "Everybody knows he's a great basketball player, but he's really learned how to be a football player. There's a world of difference in how good he's gotten in the last year."

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